autos

Max Mosley: a man who knew how to get what he wanted


Was that decision ever in doubt? Who knows, but I was sat a row behind Autocar’s Alan Henry as I wrote up the story. “Ingenious?” he muttered as he filed the story for a third or fourth outlet as I finished my first summary. “Damned convenient, more like!”

There were times when Mosley’s love of a verbal or mental fight appeared to know no bounds. I have a distant memory of standing in Monte Carlo of the eve of the World Rally Championship’s season-opener in, I think 2001, a media huddle going toe to toe with him and asking him to justify the latest set of regulation proposals. In truth, Formula 1 was his sport, and while he fended off all comers, he ended up contradicting himself on a note of detail. I pointed this out to him on the spot. “I can see why you’re saying that, but of course you have to understand…” and off he went, highlighting why I was wrong.

It’s hard to follow any argument, let alone one made by an accomplished legal brain while trying to write down the words, so I left it there. It wasn’t front-page news. The group broke up, but as he stepped away, Mosley lent in towards me. “You almost had me there…” He could have conceded more openly, but no way was he going to accept defeat in front of everyone. Pity the poor souls who had to fight him on more familiar grounds.

Of course, that attitude led him into many more battles, related to motorsport, motoring – most notably through the creation of Euro NCAP, which of course gave him a stage from which to wage war with the car makers, advancing safety for everyone as he did so, and otherwise. I would be untrue to myself if I wasn’t clear that I have a huge amount of disquiet about some of the former, particularly the seemingly insatiable relish with which he went after Ron Dennis – a man who I would rate as the most principled and honourable I have met, albeit sometimes conflicted as a result – and McLaren during Spygate in 2007. In a sport where a will to win is everything, it was sometimes evident that he wanted to win even more than the competitors themselves.

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My suspicion is that Mosley would have been the same whether he ran motorsport or his local country club. Or, maybe, if his family heritage had allowed, perhaps even a country. Driven by that towering intellect, he caused – relished, even – conflict wherever he went, always confident in his ability to emerge from it the victor.

Those writing his epitaph now will no doubt be torn by the contradictions left behind with which they must judge him more fulsomely but, as I hope these offbeat recollections highlight, his essence was as a man who knew how to get what he wanted, no matter the consequences.

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